Fire safety instruction and training


The potentially lethal and devastating effects of fire make it essential that all staff and students receive adequate information, instruction and training in fire safety so that they know how to help prevent fire and how to react if fire occurs. It is important that all persons are included, such as the following:

  • those regularly employed outside normal working hours, for example evening and night cleaners, bar staff and shift workers,
  • irregular-hours and part-time workers, and
  • students or visitors who may have responsibilities as session leaders etc.

Basic information on fire prevention and fire procedures is given to all members of the University via leaflets, handbooks, building Fire Emergency Plans and online.  Reminders are available in the form of the Fire Action notices displayed throughout the University's buildings, usually near the alarm call points. However, regular instruction and practical training is necessary to ensure that everyone is familiar with the action they should take to prevent injury and to minimise disruption to University activities and damage to buildings in the event of a fire.

Action to be taken by Heads of School/Department

Each School/Department is responsible for the detailed planning and organisation of instruction and training for its staff and students, where appropriate. Heads must ensure that procedures are set up and maintained within their school/department for

  • induction training of new school/departmental staff and students (both local and general),
  • the issuing of periodic reminders of fire safety information and instruction to all school/departmental members,
  • the regular practice of fire emergency procedures by the carrying out of fire drills and/or other training. In buildings occupied by more than one school/department, this will require liaison and co-operation,
  • the keeping of records of all instruction and training.

It is hoped that the following advice will assist Heads of School/Department when they are drawing up their plans

General Instruction and training

3.1 Induction, instruction and training

All new staff, whether they are full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary or casual workers, must receive instructions about fire precautions and procedures in their work area on their first day of employment. This is part of the health and safety induction process and a University system has been established for this (see policy document "Health and safety induction procedure for the University's staff"). Re-deployed staff should be considered as new staff for this purpose.

It is also important that new students receive similar instructions. It is strongly recommended that the Masters include in their welcoming addresses to the students at the beginning of the Autumn Term information about the evacuation procedure, drawing students' attention to the fire notices in their study bedrooms and their collective responsibility to follow the rules and not to misuse anything provided for health and safety purposes. Additionally, at the start of the first lecture/practical class, etc. of a course, and whenever a session takes place in a location not previously used, undergraduates should be shown by the person in charge of the classroom/laboratory/workshop, etc. the locations of the nearest fire alarm call point, the emergency exit, the assembly area and the fire extinguishers.  Similar information should be given to post-graduate students at their workplace.

All new staff must be enrolled on the “Fire and Safety Awareness” course provided by the Safety, Health and Environment Unit.  They should attend this as soon as possible.

3.2 Regular reminders and refresher training

All staff should receive regular information and instruction at least annually but preferably twice a year. The latter frequency is advised by Kent Fire and Rescue Service and they also require that, generally, the instruction should cover the following:-

  • the action to be taken on discovering a fire;
  • the action to be taken on hearing the fire alarm;
  • how to raise the alarm, including the location of the alarm call points;
  • how the Fire and Rescue Service will be called;
  • the location and basic principles of use of fire fighting equipment;
  • the locations of the escape routes, including those not in regular use;
  • appreciation of the importance of fire doors and of the need to close all doors at the time of a fire and on hearing the fire alarm;
  • where appropriate, the stopping of machines, equipment, etc. and the isolation of power supplies;
  • evacuation of the building.

The instruction could take the form of a circulation of a note such as that given in Appendix 1. Heads of School/Department should ensure that the wording is considered carefully and amended as necessary, so that it is appropriate for the local circumstances.  In particular, the sound of the alarm should be described i.e. bell, 2-staged bell, electronic siren, hand bell, etc. and any special features of the fire doors and emergency exit doors detailed, for example when they are linked into the alarm system and automatically close or unlock, respectively, when the alarm is activated. In some cases, it may be necessary to add specific instructions for the shutting-down of machinery, equipment or plant.  All this information can be found in the building Fire Emergency Plan.

All staff must receive at least the fire safety content of the “Fire and Safety Awareness” course provided by the Safety, Health and Environment Unit, at least once every three years.  Specific school/departmental sessions can be arranged.

The Safety, Health and Environment Unit holds regular fire safety awareness training sessions for staff.  In addition, separate training is provided for those holding key positions of responsibility in the event of a fire emergency.

3.3 Instructions for staff nominated with duties in a fire emergency

Some staff (such as Security Officers and Receptionists) have certain duties in relation to fire emergencies within their normal remit.  Furthermore, schools/departments have responsibility for nominating local staff with duties such as fire marshalling and/or fire safety inspections.
All such persons should attend the “Fire Emergency Response” course provided by the Safety, Health and Environment Unit – or a tailored version of the course which can be made available in certain circumstances.

The Safety, Health and Environment Unit does not provide full training in the use of fire fighting equipment, but providers can be recommended.

3.4 Instructions for staff in supervisory and managerial positions

Staff in charge of others, such as a lecturer taking a class and supervisors in offices, workshops, etc., have a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safe evacuation from the building in an emergency of those in their charge. They should be issued with instructions based on Appendix 2 to assist them in fulfilling this duty.

It is strongly suggested that relevant managers and School/Departmental Safety Co-ordinators should attend the “Fire Emergency Response” course provided by the Safety, Health and Environment Unit.

Fire Drills

The purpose of holding fire drills is:

  • to familiarise the occupants of University buildings with the sound of the alarm, the use of all available exits, the use of assembly areas and the building emergency evacuation procedures in general and
  • to monitor and demonstrate the effectiveness of fire emergency  planning.

In those buildings where there are alternative means of escape, the drill should be carried out by simulating conditions in which one or more of the escape routes is obstructed.

4.1 Frequency and timing

The management in each building must ensure that drills are held at least annually. In buildings shared by two or more Schools/Departments, the Heads or their representatives must liaise so that the whole building (or the appropriate zones within those buildings which have two-stage fire alarm systems) is evacuated.  It may be necessary to hold more than one drill per year in some buildings, to ensure that occupants are trained. Thus, in the Colleges, it is strongly recommended that at least two drills are held per annum, one early in the Autumn Term in the evening to train the new residents and another in the Spring Term to train all occupants. The latter should preferably be held in the mornings because of the working hours of the domestic staff.

It is sensible to plan drills to minimise disruption to University life and in buildings where teaching is carried out, drills held just before or just on the hour will accomplish this.

4.2 Should drills be unannounced?

The decision to hold announced or unannounced fire drills depends largely on local circumstances. In general, unannounced drills are preferable but in some work areas, such as the Laboratories, they could introduce risks from unattended work. A local policy, therefore, must be decided by the Head(s) of School(s)/Department(s) in consultation with their School/Departmental Safety Co-ordinators and the Building Fire Officer.  Whatever this decision, however, there will be some key members of staff who need to be informed in advance so that experiments or activities, which are potentially dangerous or very costly if abandoned, can be postponed or curtailed before the drill commences.

4.3 Typical procedure

The Building Fire Officer should take charge of the drill.  A date and time will be set after consultation with the Safety, Health and Environment Unit and the Maintenance Services Manager and Security Manager must both be informed in writing at least one week prior to the exercise.  This is to ensure that Kent Fire and Rescue Service is not called inadvertently and to allow a Maintenance staff member to be present to reset the alarm after the drill.

The Safety, Health and Environment Unit should also be informed.  An adviser will usually be sent to observe the drill and compile a report.

It is important that the time set for the drill should be adhered to strictly, to prevent any possible confusion with a real emergency.  Key personnel including the Fire Marshals and, if appropriate, other building occupants should be warned in advance if this is seen as necessary or beneficial (see 4.2 above).

A staff member should be requested to operate the fire alarm (if notified in advance, the Maintenance staff member will bring a replacement glass for a call point) and thereafter, the drill should follow as fully as possible the emergency procedures drawn up for the building, i.e. everyone should follow the instructions issued to them.

In order to confirm the effectiveness of the procedures, checks should be made to ensure that the building has been vacated; in a real emergency, this task would be carried out by Kent Fire and Rescue Service.  The Fire Marshals should check the area assigned to them to confirm that everyone has left the building and that windows and doors have been closed.  They should report the condition of their area to the Building Fire Officer or Security Supervisor.  Occupants must not be allowed to re-enter the building until the all-clear has been given by the Building Fire Officer.

When the Building Fire Officer has received reports from all of the Fire Marshals, the building can be re-opened by asking the Door Wardens to stand down.

Finally, the Building Fire Officer must ensure that Campus Watch and the Telephone Exchange staff and, in the Colleges, Static Systems are informed that the drill has been completed and that any further calls relating to the building must be treated as genuine.

4.4 Evacuation time

The evacuation time should be measured from the moment the fire alarm system is activated until the last evacuee leaves the building.  A time of two to three minutes or less is ideal but, for the larger buildings, a time of up to five minutes is satisfactory. Longer times than this warrant investigation with a view to improvement and consideration should be given to repeating the drill within the following two weeks.

4.5 Alternative marshalling systems

If difficulties are encountered in nominating definite persons to act as Fire Marshals and Door Wardens, consideration should be given to alternative arrangements such as a card nomination system, whereby the Building Fire Officer allocates duties specified on a card to responsible individuals as they leave the building.  The Fire Safety and Environment Adviser will assist schools/departments in devising such strategies.

4.6 Reporting and review

Building occupants must be encouraged to report any problems found during the drill, such as inaudible alarms, fire exit locks or fastenings which do not operate properly, blocked fire exits, etc. to the Building Fire Officer.  The latter must then ensure that remedial action is taken.

A review of the fire procedures taking into account the experience gained during the drill should be made by the Building Fire Officer in conjunction with the Head(s) of School(s)/Department(s), the School/Departmental Safety Co-ordinator(s) and the Fire Safety and Environment Adviser. Feed-back from the Fire Marshals and Door Wardens should be considered. If necessary, amendments should be made to the procedures.


A record must be made of all instruction and training and these must be available for inspection. The record should include the following:

  • the date of the instruction or training;
  • the duration;
  • the name of the person giving the instruction;
  • the nature of the instruction or training;
  • the persons receiving the instruction or training. Where possible, this should be by name but, in the case of evacuation drills in large buildings, this will be impossible; therefore, approximate numbers will suffice in these cases.

A record book has been issued to all Heads of School/Department; further supplies are available from the Safety, Health and Environment Unit.

Appendix 1 Fire Emergency Procedures

Instructions for staff

Refer to the Fire Emergency Plan (and/or short-form Fire Information sheet) for the building in question, for the following:

- Sound of fire alarm signal

- Assembly point location

- Nearest and alternative escape routes and emergency exits.

(Familiarise with details - alarm-linked door locks, hold-open devices, etc.)

On discovering a fire

1. Turn your back on the fire and set off the fire alarm.

2. Depending on the building (familiarise with local information), ial 3333 on an internal telephone and report the fire and its location. Ensure the location is verified by the operator. (In many buildings this is not necessary if the fire alarm has been activated.)

3. In the case of a small, localised fire, it may be possible to tackle it with the extinguishers provided but only if this is possible without taking personal risk and you have received full training.

Caution: It is essential that the correct type of extinguisher is used for particular types of fire. Use of incorrect extinguisher types could make matters worse and endanger life.

4. Evacuate as below.

On hearing the alarm

1. Leave any services or equipment in a safe condition, if you are able to do so quickly.

2. Close the windows of your room, if possible.

3. Ensure others in your immediate neighbourhood have heard the alarm and assist any visitors, students and/or persons with disabilities, if necessary and if safe and appropriate to do so.

4. Leave the building by the nearest safe route, using emergency doors if necessary; walk quickly but do not run; close all doors behind you.

5. Go to your assembly point and await instructions. Co-operate with the Building Fire Officer and the Fire and Rescue Service (if present) and obey their instructions.


  • Use the lift.

  • Go to other parts of the building for possessions.

  • Re-enter the building until told by the Building Fire Officer or a Fire and Rescue Service Officer that it is safe to do so.

After the emergency is over, please report use of any fire fighting equipment.


The above instructions must be followed whenever there is an emergency evacuation e.g. for a real fire or a drill. Adherence to the points will lead to an orderly, swift evacuation of the building, protecting life in a real emergency and minimising inconvenience in a practice.

Appendix 2 Emergency Evacuation Procedures

Instructions for staff in supervisory positions

You have a responsibility to those in your charge to do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure their health and safety at work. You should be fully aware of the procedures to be followed in an emergency and should ensure that those in your charge also know how they should react to protect themselves.

You should also ensure that regular fire safety inspections (at least weekly informal, monthly formal/recorded) take place.

When the alarm is raised, you should:

1. Check that people in your immediate vicinity have heard the alarm and are leaving the building by the nearest safe route. Do not put yourself at risk when checking;

2. Go to the assembly point and check that your staff (or students) are present or are known to be safe. Report any person unaccounted for and any other problem to the Building Fire Officer or Security Supervisor,i.e. the person in charge of the evacuation.

Teaching staff

You should ensure that, when you teach in a building other than your own, you know:

  • the sound of the alarm;

  • the position of the nearest fire alarm call point and fire extinguisher, and the assembly point for the building;

  • the nearest escape route out of the building from your teaching room. Note that this is not necessarily your normal route in and out.

Acquiring this information should involve only a few minutes of your time but will significantly increase your own and your students' safety.